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The Best Probiotics for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Updated on December 19, 2014

For many years "irritable bowel syndrome" was a been a catch-all diagnosis for intestinal symptoms that seemed to have no medical explanation. But as more and more people become afflicted, IBS is coming to be recognized more as a product of lifestyle and diet factors. Things that contribute to IBS include:

  • Eating a diet full of processed and genetically modified foods
  • Consuming formula instead of breast milk as an infant
  • A predominance of high fructose corn syrup in convenience foods
  • The use of antibiotics to treat infection

These factors (and others) can damage the lining of the intestines while creating a significant imbalance in intestinal bacteria - when the wrong bacteria dominate, IBS symptoms appear. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include:

  • Flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain/cramping
  • Irregular bowel movements - alternating diarrhea and constipation, multiple bowel movements per day, broad variation in stool formation, mucus in the stools, and/or the feeling that a bowel movement is incomplete.
  • Nausea
  • Other symptoms

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are a dietary supplement containing live microorganisms (bacteria) that are beneficial to the gut and the digestive process. They can be taken in pill form, but some probiotics can be found in fermented foods as well.

There is evidence that probiotics are beneficial to the body for many health conditions, not just for intestinal problems; this is because probiotics strengthen the immune system and fight off problem-causing bacteria.

But not all probiotics are beneficial for IBS patients.

Which probiotics can help IBS?

Bifidobacterium has, by far, shown the most promising results in treating IBS. There have been studies done on all of the below strains, with promising conclusions:

  • Bifidobacterium bifidum - 47% of people in a trial of this bacteria reported an improvement of IBS symptoms.
  • Bifidobacterium infantis (B. Infantis, Bifantis) - Reduces inflammation in the gut and is shown to improve symptoms such as abdominal pain/discomfort, bloating/distention, and bowel movement difficulty.
  • Bifidobacterium lactis - Shown to lower stress-related IBS symptoms, including gut sensitivity and permeability.

Other probiotic strains that benefit IBS patients:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG - Shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of abdominal pain in children with IBS.
  • Lactobacillus plantarum - Provides effective symptom relief from abdominal pain and bloating.
  • Lactobacillus brevis - May reduce frequency of abdominal pain and diarrhea.
  • Bacillus coagulans - Significantly improved abdominal pain and bloating in patients with IBS.

Sources: MedScape, PubMed articles

Probiotic products to consider for IBS

  • Enzymatic Therapy Pearls IC - This product contains 4 strains of Bifidobacterium and 2 strains of acidophilus.
  • Nature's Way Primadophilus Probifia Pearls - This product contains 4 strains of bifidobacterium. (Note: there is a variation of this product called Primadophilus Bifidus that is not safe for fructose malabsorption, due to fructan content. It comes in a bottle, whereas the pearls come in a box.)
  • Align - This product contains only Bifidobacterium infantis, so it may be a good place to start if you've never taken probiotics before.

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    • findwholeness profile image
      Author

      Kristine McAdams 4 years ago from Midwest

      You're welcome!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I get an attack of IBS on rare occasions. I never knew about probiotics before. Thanks, Katie, for this information.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 4 years ago from New Jersey

      I was wondering about probiotics as both I and another family member have issues with IBS. Thanks for the information.